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Response to John Coffee In a March 12 article, “ Securities Law: Law & Politics of Scienter,” John C. Coffee Jr. accused me of violating conflict-of-interest rules because I write for the New York Times about the Securities and Exchange Commission and securities law policy and my father is a plaintiffs’ securities lawyer. In that article, Professor Coffee also intentionally mischaracterized my articles by suggesting that I quote people only on one side of the debate over policy. (In fact, one of the articles he cites begins with a quote from the chairman of the SEC critical of some shareholder lawsuits.) Professor Coffee has known my father and me for the better part of 20 years. He has been quoted by me over the years, and in all the years we have known each other, he never raised a conflict issue. Last fall, the Times rejected his demand that it run a correction of an article in which I quoted him after concluding that there was no error to correct. Since then, Professor Coffee has embarked on a campaign to discredit the Times and me. His initial response was to criticize the Times article in The New York Law Journal. After that failed to gain traction, he stepped up the campaign by concocting a phony conflict of interest involving my father and me to attack the integrity of the Times for other articles in which he has not appeared. “The hidden conflicts of interest in the media may be greater than those on Wall Street,” he wrote in his March 12 article. In compliance with the Times‘ ethics policies, I have always voluntarily recused myself from covering stories once I learned that they involve cases in which my father has participated. That is apparently insufficient for Professor Coffee, for by his logic it is impossible for a son to ever be professionally independent of his father. In his world, a journalist whose mother is a teacher or whose son is a student should be precluded from covering education. A reporter whose brother is in the Army could not write about the Pentagon. And some of our most distinguished Washington correspondents would be disqualified from covering the Supreme Court or the Justice Department because they have spouses who practice appellate advocacy or criminal law. I am surprised that The National Law Journal never sought a response from the Times or me before running Professor Coffee’s article. Had it done so, I would hope it would not have allowed itself to be used in pursuit of a personal vendetta. STEPHEN LABATON WASHINGTON Stephen Labaton is a senior writer at the New York Times. Editor’s note: It is not the NLJ’s policy to seek responses from people mentioned in pieces written by our columnists. The columns represent their authors’ own analyses and opinions. Further, the piece raised the issue of conflicts, but did not specifically state that the writer violated conflict-of-interest rules. Downsizing at Mayer Brown This comment in the article “Downsizing: Who’s Next?: After Mayer, paring partners to up profits” [ NLJ, March 12], is very short-sighted: “Law firms have limited options in boosting average equity partner profits, besides upping billing rates, improving collection and taking the risk of expanding practice areas. Decreasing the number of equity partners has become a popular tactic, but one done quietly and often in small increments, [Ed] Wesemann said.” Profits per partner is the product of margin (profit/revenue) times asset turnover (revenue/lawyers) times leverage (lawyers/partners). Understanding that relationship and the various components that make up each variable can lead you to ways to improve performance beyond simply playing with leverage, which often just amounts to denominator management. For a quick analysis of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw’s actions, take a look at my blog “Minding the Law’s Business” at www.mindingthelawsbusiness.com. JOHN WALKER LAGO VISTA, TEXAS

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